Holland America Lines Cruise - Auckland to Vancouver - 2017
March 27 - Tauranga, NZ (Rotorua)
After a night of ignoring all of the creeks, taps and groans from our stateroom's infrastructure caused by the gentle rocking of the ship, we were up early so that we would be on time for our day's shore excursion. The ship had docked in Tauranga by the time we went to breakfast on the Lido Deck at 7:00. The Lido deck contains the spa, the gym, two outdoor pools, hot tubs and the buffet. To get to the buffet we took an elevator on our 4th deck up to the 9th deck, walked past the spa, continued alongside the main pool and entered the buffet after using the Prell dispenser to sanitize our hands. Much of the food (fruit, breads, mini boxes of cereal, coffee, etc.) is self-served. Hot food (eggs, bacon, hot cereal, etc.) are served by the buffet crew. The area is very busy with passengers and it is difficult to find a table next to the windows. Passengers share large tables. Servers are spread throughout the seating area to pour juice and coffee as well to bus the tables when people leave them. For our breakfast we had fruit, oatmeal, breads and coffee. We also managed to get a copy of the New York Times condensed edition so we could catch up on the news and work the crossword puzzle.
There are several choice for shore excursions. Holland America wants you to sign up for its tours. On these tours, HAL guarantees that the ship will not leave without you if you are late getting back to the ship. They are fairly expensive and sometimes do not give much of a choice in each port. You can sign up for independent tours through TripAdvisor or ShoreTrips. They have some good options, but they do not offer tours in many ports. Signups for these tours are available in advance through their websites. Another choice is with independent operators that are concentrated at the port terminals. The final choice is to leave the ship and walk around the area
Our tour in Tauranga, Rotorua Naturally, was through TripAdvisor with a company called Viator. We were the last to board our 14-passenger bus at 9:30. Our driver/guide was Hella. (I discovered that she drove the support van for some of my BAC friends on a bicycle tours a couple of weeks ago). We started our drive past beaches and Tauranga neighborhoods on the Bay of Plenty. Out in the countryside, we saw lots of dairy cows. We learned that these cows walked 8km per day. To get more milk production, they were bred with larger US cows as an experiment. The experiment failed when the cows' udders became too large and heavy to do the long-dustant walking. We also saw lots of fields growing grasses for the cows. These grasses were cut, piled and covered with plastic to produce silage.
Our first stop was at a kiwi orchard where we walked to vine-like trees where the fruit was growing. There was a light rain falling, we had come prepared with umbrellas. I learned that there both gold and green kiwis. In the orchard's visitors center we sampled kiwi juice and bought a large bar of kiwi chocolate.
Continuing on, we walked through a redwood grove, Whakarewarewa Forest, which I thought was rather strange in New Zealand. Then we stopped at a couple of interesting lakes. Tikitapu/Blue Lake is used for recreation. Rotokakahi/Green Lake is owned by the local Maori and is sacred. No boating, fishing or swimming is allowed. For lunch, we ate in a very busy restaurant next to the huge lake in Rotorua. We could watch black swans swimming in the shallows. While in Rotorua, we visited a large park where beautiful grounds surround a large ornate museum which is condemned because of damage caused by a recent earthquake. We also visited a thermal park where we watched and smelled bubbling pools of water. Some of our group took advantage of a foot pool where they soaked their feet in not-as-hot water. Our final stop was at a Mossop's Honey Shop which had live hives where we could observe the bees in action.
This was an excellent tour and a good introduction to this part of New Zealand.
We got back to the ship at 4:00. This gave us plenty of time to clean up and get dressed for our first gala dinner. I remember seeing photos of passengers on cruise ships at their dress dinners. Men wore tuxedos while women wore elaborate gowns with lots of jewels. Although we saw some diehards dressed the old fashioned way, Holland America does not enforce the old custom. We could now wear anything besides uncollared shirts, shorts and sandals. The men in our group chose blazers, open collared shirts and slacks. The women wore nice dresses.
The six of us had arranged for early seating dinners in the main dining room. This meant that we had the same table and the same waiters every evening at 5:30. Gala dinners are usually special with more gourmet choices. Tonight's dinner was not up to that standard. I had a shrimp cocktail, salad, sole and strawberries with balsamic cream. Ann had salad and lamb chops. I forgot what she had for an appetizer and dessert. We also enjoyed the wine choice that the Matutes provided.
Show time was at 8:00 in the Vantage Lounge. This is a two-level theater with a large stage. The sound and staging are very professionally done. The show started at 8:00 after a toast by captain. String Fever was a violin and cello husband and wife act. The wife played the cello and was very good. The husband played a violin and was not as good. It was entertaining but a little schlocky with some not-quite funny jokes. The ship's backup band was excellent. It consisted of an acoustical guitar, a bass guitar, drums and a keyboard synthesizer that could make sounds of many different instruments. The band also played in other venues on the ship.
We were in bed before 10:00.
This was our route from Auckland to Tauranga.
This was the route of our tour.